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SB 75: Birth fathers to share medical bills

Money, Money, Money – Flikr – borman 818.jpg | Foot of newborn baby: Creative Commons, Kurt Nordstrom, Ponder, TX
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A bill to make unmarried fathers equally responsible for medical bills for a pregnancy has been unanimously passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senate Bill 75, requested by Governor Kristi Noem, amends an older bill to include medical expenses before and after the birth and provides for additional legal remedies.

Senator David Wheeler introduced SB 75 to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said old language was stricken, and new language specifies that an unmarried couple shares equal financial responsibility for expenses related to pregnancy and birth. That includes prenatal care, delivery, and postpartum care.

“If it’s a medical complication afterwards, if it’s post-partum depression and the person needs counseling, those are a result of that pregnancy, they are a result of that birth, and they are an expense that should be borne by both people involved in that child’s life,” Wheeler said.

The bill also provides for additional legal remedies, including small claims.

Diana Miller, lobbyist for the South Dakota Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, said SB 75 is good public policy.

“When we have the circumstance of a child born out of wedlock, for fairness purposes, both people are responsible, not only for creating that child, but for the upbringing and the long-term effect of medical health,” she said.

South Dakota Right to Life also supports the bill. Executive Director Dale Bartscher said the South Dakota Department of Health collects abortion statistics from the previous year, and one question is why the patient seeks the procedure.

Bartscher said the bill, if passed, would help eliminate one of the top reasons.

“If you average the last five years, you will find that the second-highest reason given for that, is that the mother could not afford the child,” Bartscher said.

Other proponents included the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Avera, and Family Heritage Alliance. There were no opponents. The committee unanimously passed the bill on to the full Senate.

Rapid City freelancer Victoria L. Wicks has been producing news for SDPB since August 2007. She Retired from this position in March 2023.